The Semester at TARC, Savar: Monster in Disguise?

It has been some months since my semester jaunt at Savar, but it seems that the ghosts of that place followed every one of us here. From the people who greet each other to the plans that everyone had about how we all would get together again, to the football and cricket, even down to the fights that guys had and the weed. All of it is still there, not in front of our faces, but rumbling in the background, making us laugh, sometimes get a little sad, other times make us realise about the enormity of some certain stupid actions some indulged in and everyone will have to pay for. A friend made the observation that the people who had returned from TARC came back with a different personality. On closer inspection, he was right. In a subtle sort of a manner, everyone was different than before they had gone to TARC. It is not the difference between the earth and the sky, rather it is the subtle difference in the manner that all of the ‘TARC graduates’ moved, walked, talked and behaved. They were more assertive, outgoing and bolder. Well, I guess it could be said that the semester is a success, as it aims to make students realise their potential and instil confidence in their personalities, most of whom enter the term looking like a wet, soggy sponge or more like an ugly pebble.

Then why a monster in disguise you wonder? There is a thin red line here. It is not in that the students have grown just more assertive, but that they assert themselves in situations and ways unbecoming of who they portrayed themselves to be initially. I would concede error on my part, if it weren’t for the same change in most of the people after their time there. Imagine witnessing someone you initially knew as quiet, courteous and sedate all of a sudden being transformed into a loud, brash and rude personality. That seems to be the reaction even from people who spent the two months there. “I thought he was such a quiet and decent fellow…but he seems so different now,” or “This girl I hear is…” Not pretty at all. Especially when it’s about people you know and run into at university. Just to clear up the picture, I’m not droning about the ‘party-animals’. Partying and being a disliked character are two different things and I’m talking about the latter. A worrying number of the people returned from their two month holiday having picked up habits and developing characteristics that may not have developed had they not been to Savar for two months. It seems that without constant supervision, most of us are likely to become more of an embarrassment than anything else.

In many cases, the display of disliked characteristics is simply the result of poor judgement on the part of the person. I suppose that may be why one would need some TARC training, to improve judgement, about others as well as one’s own self. Poor judgement leads to the people there doing questionable things or behaving in an unacceptable manner, often unapologetically as there is no one to point out the errors of their ways. The problem with TARC is, although it aims to improve the personalities of the students, most come out worse than before since there is no one figurehead who can be used as an example for the rest at that place. Detached from the rest of the world and mixing only with the students, the only way that the majority can improve is if they were to be under the influence of someone who happens to possess those ‘desirable’ qualities and characteristics and were to be a leading figure in that place. However, the students prefer, obviously, to spend time with friends and there we seemingly find a problem. The students select, for whatever reason, the “loudest mouth” as their leader. The one who goes first, the one who comes up with “let’s-do-something-to-kill-the-boredom” ideas, the one who always seems like the troublemaker. I do not know why, nor am I really interested in why, it is simply something I observed amongst most of the people. Just to prevent a few brain sprains, here may be an answer to the why. The rest are too submissive to assume leadership amongst their friends.

There is the very thing TARC aims to cure but ends up reinforcing, barring some exceptions. As students are taken into seclusion with the aim of trying to develop their character and turn them into something like a model citizen, the students form their own social groups and huddle together. Obviously the interest of the whole group and its elements rises above everything else, quickly since there is little in its stead, and the normally submissive ones get drawn into it. For the individuals in the group, the perception is one of ‘belonging’ in something, irrespective of what that something may turn out to be. The individuals in the group independently gravitate towards protecting each other’s backs, not always in equal amounts, the chief getting extra from the rest. The submissive ones are thus drawn into submitting to the will of the group, which they perceive to be their own free will. This happens and will continue happening as for most of the students, the group mentality is what they relate to the most since entering school. As said, “Old habits die hard,” and the university will have to try a lot harder if they are to change the mentality of the students and bring out the better, if not best, in them.

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